Article - "A Dog for a Duck"

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9 Years
Apr 2, 2010

(Virginia) -- To Linda Jones, the fatal mauling of her family's pet ducks this summer was an outrage and dead-on proof of why Floyd County needs a law against roaming dogs.

Three dogs seized upon five ducks in their small pen the morning of July 12.

Linda Jones' husband, Fred, killed one of the dogs with a shotgun.

But three ducks died in the mayhem and a fourth was so seriously hurt it was later euthanized.

To Gabriel and Aaren Nunez, whose dogs killed those ducks, the incident, while regrettable, is the type of thing that happens in the country now and then. They have paid $197 restitution and are contemplating steps to better confine their dogs at home.

But they say they are mad. After losing one dog in the attack, the Nunezes are now fighting a court order that calls for the other two Nunez dogs that were present at the incident to be euthanized as known livestock killers under county and state law.

A judge is scheduled to take up their plea to spare the dogs in December. The law appears to give a judge the option of banishing a killer dog from the state in lieu of death.

The two Floyd County families are at the heart of a debate over dog freedom. It may not be long before county supervisors will have to decide whether to clamp down on roaming dogs or leave the heated issue alone -- leaving dogs free to go where they please.

Supervisors got an earful of complaints about roaming dogs at their August meeting. Dogs that are normally gentle family pets, when bonded with other dogs in a roaming pack, can turn vicious and kill, speakers said.

While no trespassing signs provide a block against humans entering private property, "dogs can roam whenever, wherever they want in this county," Linda Jones said.

She is among several people who are calling for a county ordinance that would fine owners of dogs caught roaming on somebody else's property. The fine should be "stiff" -- about $200, she said. Only consequences like that would curb the number of roaming canines, Jones said.

She and her husband, 21-year Pilot residents, have struggled with the issue for years and gave up sheep farming after repeated animal losses to dog attacks -- only to suffer another blow with the loss of the pet ducks.

It is legal for a property owner or his representative to kill a dog that is in the act of killing or injuring the owner's livestock or poultry. Some do take matters into their own hands. Around Floyd, the phrase for quietly dispatching invading dogs is "shoot, shovel and shut up," Jones said.

But people who have retaliated with lethal force say killing a dog can be an agonizing experience.

"Do you know how much emotional conflict I go through, my husband goes through to have to kill a dog?" Linda Jones said. "Gosh, we love dogs. But when this dog is killing your pet on your property, you're mad enough at the time do it. Afterward you go, 'Oh, my gosh, I just killed a dog.' "

County Administrator Dan Campbell added insight to where some of the upset property owners are coming from. Although landowner rights include the power to pull the trigger, some property owners may not want to invoke their rights and would prefer to call a governmental authority for assistance instead, he said.

The next time the issue could be discussed is at the September meeting. However, the agenda had not been prepared as of Friday. Campbell did not know whether it will come up in September. It's up to supervisors.

The Nunezes say they love dogs, too. Having moved to the area three years ago, they have a 30-acre family farm in Floyd County that is home to a variety of livestock, poultry and five dogs -- all of the canines being up-to-date on shots, licensed and spayed or neutered, they said.

The area around their house is fenced, save for a couple of gaps, and there is a gate that they close across the driveway some of the time. Gabriel Nunez said in light of the incident six weeks ago, he should plug the gaps in the fence and intends to do so. They are considering closing the gate full time. He thinks that's the path the dogs took when they left the property.

If a dog killed their livestock, they would not want it killed or penalties placed against its owner, they said.

"It's part of farming," Aaren Nunez said.

The loss of a large animal such as a cow would be a significant loss, but they carry insurance against that, she said.

But for what happened at the Jones property, it doesn't seem right to the Nunezes that the judge ordered the killing of dogs they consider family pets. Small animals such as ducks, Aaren Nunez said, "are a dime a dozen."

But the Joneses say their ducks were pets, too. What's more, Linda Jones said she and her husband could accept losing an animal occasionally to wildlife. They kill to eat, Linda Jones said.

But not to dogs.

"People should be in control of their dogs in this county," she said.

Asked if she believes the Nunez dogs should be put to death, Linda Jones declined to comment.

Less than half an hour before an animal control officer was scheduled to pick up the Nunez animals Friday morning, Gabriel Nunez completed paperwork at the courthouse appealing his misdemeanor criminal conviction over the incident.

That halted the extermination -- for now.

An animal control officer visited the property and told the Nunezes he was satisfied the dogs are sufficiently confined for the time being. The case is scheduled to be heard Dec. 1.
Here's a link to the comment section if anyone would like to make their feelings known.
WOW!!!! if i was the owner of the dog i would kill all the guys ducks myself. this is just outrageous that he would kill a dog because of a few simple ducks
. i hope the dog owners win the court fight

R.I.P the poor dog who got shot for its natural instinct to play
(not knowing about the killing part)
It comes down to own simple thing to me. If you love your dogs, then you don't let them roam. I would bet anything that this isn't the first time these dogs have been roaming the neighborhood. Their owners' comment says it all "These things happen in the country" They seem to have forgotten the flip side of the story - actions have consequences. Yes, it is legal in some places for the dogs to roam, but it is also legal for them to be shot. If your dogs are KNOWN animal killers, then it is the law that they be destroyed.

If they had been RESPONSIBLE dog owners in the first place, they wouldn't be facing this situation. I wonder if they would be saying the same thing if it killed a kitten? After all, cats are a dime a dozen too. It doesn't matter the monetary value of the animal (or really even if it was a loved pet vs livestock). Your irresponsible behavior caused damage to someone else. Since you have proven that you are unable or unwilling to take control and keep these things from happening, then your pet is the loser.
Yes, in the traditional country life, dogs roamed free. And their owners accepted that if they killed livestock, they wouldn't be coming home. A truly honorable person would kill or give away his own dog if it harassed other peoples' property.

I own both chickens and a dog. If my dog runs off and kills someone else's animals, and the other person shoots him, I will apologize profoundly for giving them the trouble. And we will shoot any dog that comes after our chickens, or tries to lure our dog into a pack.

Do any of the people who are so concerned about the dog realize how DANGEROUS a dog pack is? They will threaten and kill not only animals, but HUMANS. They are not the same in a pack! And the Nunezes are openly keeping a roaming dog pack.

This is not just a public nuisance, but a public menace.
And if you notice, it says that the area's fenced "except for a few places" so he knows it's not snug.
exactly. Plus, anything short of a covered-run, my dogs aren't left outside unattended. I don't mean me standing there, staring like a hawk. I mean checking on them and keeping an eye on what they are doing. Of course, my dogs have a doggie door, so they only go outside long enough to potty unless I'm outside.

Even one time of getting out is one time too many. Sure, I know that accidents happen, but that should be a wake-up call that you need to fix it!
I could not agree more. I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper carrying the story. The subject of the letter pretty much is in agreement with your quote above. People can let their dogs roam in a county without leash laws, but the lack of such laws in no way whatsoever guarantees that dog can destroy others' livestock with impunity. In fact, this irresponsible family now has to deal not only with one dog's death, but their children will live in fear that the other 2 dogs might be destroyed. They have to go through uncertainty until December 1st at least.

Mr Nunez has made it clear that he isn't bothered in the least that his neighbors lost their beloved pets. However, the law disagrees, thank goodness. One person's livestock may be valued simply as commodities, but there are more and more people keeping domestic fowl not only for eggs and for food, but for pets.
I saw in the comments that three more of their dogs (they had five) have returned to the Jones' yard, and another one has been shot.

The dog owners admitted that they have gaps in their fence, and that they don't bother to close their gate. And they know that their pack of dogs are roaming around killing other peoples' animals. I hope the judge throws the book at them!
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